There are seven words in the human language that are almost never used together, but they're going to be used together this week for the first time in three years, "The Browns opened as a road favorite."
In a sign that the Indianapolis Colts have probably reached rock bottom, the Browns have opened as a 2.5-point favorite over the Colts at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. This is big news because the Browns almost never open as a favorite, let alone a road favorite.
The last time the Browns opened as a favorite in any game came in Week 14 of 2015, when they were a 1.5-point favorite in a home game over the 49ers where the Browns covered in a 24-10 win. That was nearly two years ago.
As for road games, the last time the Browns opened as a favorite in one of those came in October 2014, when the Browns opened as a 4-point favorite for a game in Jacksonville. The Browns definitely didn't cover in that game though, as the Jaguars blew them out 24-6.
According to Pro Football Reference, the game in Indy marks just the fourth time since 2008 that the Browns have opened as a road favorite, and it's a good thing for the Browns that the AFC South exists, because three of those four games have come against teams from that division.
The bad news for the Browns is that being a favorite in a game -- home or road -- usually turns out to be a disaster for them. In the past 15 games where they've been the favorite, the Browns have gone 5-10 straight-up and 4-11 ATS.
NFL Week 3 early odds
(All lines from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, all games on Sunday unless noted)
Rams (1-1) at 49ers (0-2), Thursday
Opening line: Rams, -2.5 points
If there's one home team in the NFL you might not want to bet on, it's the 49ers. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, the 49ers are 9-16 ATS at home, which is tied for the worst mark in the NFC over that span. Of course, we should probably point out that this includes a 2-1 ATS record against the Rams and a 7-15 ATS record against everyone else. The scary thing about betting the 49ers though is that they haven't scored an offensive touchdown this season and Brian Hoyer just broke the franchise record for most pass attempts (27) without hitting the 100-yard mark. That's not a record you want to break.
Ravens (2-0) vs. Jaguars (1-1) in London
Opening line: Ravens, -4.5
The Ravens and Jaguars will be heading to England for this week for the NFL's first international game of the year. London has actually been a nice place for the Jaguars lately with Jacksonville on a two-game international win streak. As for the Ravens, they'll be making their first trip to London, and they'll be doing it without one of their best offensive linemen. Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda was lost for the season after suffering an ankle injury in Week 2, which could lead to an ugly week for Joe Flacco in London. These two teams have played four times since 2011 and have split the series.
Giants (0-1) at Eagles (1-1)
Opening line: Eagles, -3.5 points
The Eagles have absolutely owned this series over the past few years. Since 2014, the Eagles are 5-1 straight-up and ATS against the Giants. The Eagles have also been impressive when they're a home favorite. During Carson Wentz's rookie year in 2016, the Eagles went 4-1 ATS as a home favorite, which was the best mark of any team in the NFL. One thing to keep an eye on in this game is whether or not Odell Beckham plays. The Giants offense has been bad lately, and without Odell, things could get ugly. Not to mention, the Giants will be traveling to Philly off of a short week following Monday's game against the Lions.
Texans (1-1) at Patriots (1-1)
Opening line: Patriots, -12.5 points
The series between the Texans and the Patriots has been one of the most one-sided rivalries in the NFL over the past few years. Since hiring Bill O'Brien, who served on the Patriots' coaching staff from 2007-11, in 2014, the Texans have gone 0-3 straight-up and ATS against the Patriots with those three losses all coming in huge blowouts (27-6 in 2015, 27-0 in 2016, 34-16 in the playoffs following 2016 season). O'Brien can't seem to figure out Bill Belichick, and you probably shouldn't expect that to change this week with the Texans likely playing a quarterback (Deshaun Watson) who will only be making his second career start. The Texans could catch a break if Rob Gronkowski can't go. Gronk left New England's Week 2 game in the third quarter after injuring his groin.
Falcons (2-0) at Lions (1-0)
Opening line: Falcons, -3 points
If you're looking for a road team to bet on regularly this year, you might want to go with Falcons. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Falcons have gone 7-2 straight up and ATS on the road. That ATS record is the best mark of any team in the NFC over the span. On the other hand, one thing the Lions have done well lately is cover as a home underdog. The Lions went 3-1 ATS last season as a home underdog. These two teams haven't played since 2014, when the Falcons blew a 21-0 halftime lead in a London game that ended with the Lions winning 22-21. The Falcons blowing a huge lead, imagine that.
Broncos (2-0) at Bills (1-1)
Opening line: Broncos, -1.5 points
After shutting down the Cowboys' high-powered offense on Sunday, the Broncos defense will now get to feast on a Bills' team that only scored three points against Carolina in Week 2. The Bills offense has looked pretty dysfunctional so far this season, and it's hard to see how the Bills are going to score points against one of the NFL's best defenses. The one possible upside for the Bills is that the Broncos haven't won in Buffalo since 2007.
Steelers (2-0) at Bears (0-2)
Opening line: Steelers, -7.5 points
Ben Roethlisberger has only played one game in his entire career in Chicago, and that came in a game that the Steelers lost 17-14 in 2009. Not only is Big Ben winless in Chicago, but the Steelers as a team haven't won there since 1995. The good news for the Steelers is that the Bears seem to be in total disarray following Sunday's 29-7 beatdown at the hands of the Buccaneers. The one thing the Bears have been good at recently, no matter how bad they've been playing, is covering as a home underdog. Since the beginning of last season, the Bears are 5-1 ATS as a home underdog, a total that includes a Week 1 game this year against the Falcons when the Bears covered a 6.5 point spread in a 23-17 loss.
Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (0-2)
Opening line: Dolphins, -6.5 points
If the Jets are tanking, they're probably going to have a tough time beating a Dolphins team that owned them in 2016 when they weren't tanking. The Jets are 0-2 ATS this year, which is really ugly when you consider the fact that they were a 14-point underdog in one of those games. The Jets also didn't cover in Week 1 when they were a seven-point underdog to the Bills. Dating back to last season, the Jets are 6-12 ATS, which is tied for the third worst mark in the NFC.
Browns (0-2) at Colts (0-2)
Opening line: Browns, -2.5 points
The shocking thing about this line isn't necessarily the fact that the Browns are favored, it's that oddsmakers have basically given up on the Colts and their ongoing stories that this week might finally be the week that Andrew Luck starts. Oddsmakers clearly believe that Luck won't be playing this week, which is a big reason why the Browns are favored. The wild thing is that the Browns are actually having some quarterback issues of their own. DeShone Kizer had to leave Cleveland's game on Sunday due to a migraine and there's no guarantee that won't happen again against the Colts. Also, the Browns are 5-13 ATS since the beginning of 2016, which is the worst mark of any team in the NFL over the span.
Saints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0)
Opening line: Panthers, -6 points
Over the past two seasons, the Saints haven't been too great straight up in games against divisional opponents (5-7), but they have been covering the spread more often than any other team in the NFL. Over the past two years, the Saints are 9-3 ATS in divisional games, which is the best mark in the league over that span. On the other hand, the Panthers have been one of the worst at covering, going 4-8 ATS against divisional opponents. That being said, the Panthers haven't given up a touchdown this season, and their defense will be waiting to smash a Saints team that's 1-4 straight-up in their past five trips to Charlotte.
Buccaneers (1-0) at Vikings (1-1)
Opening line: Off the board
With the health of Sam Bradford still up in the air, this line is off the board at most sportsbooks. Bradford suffered an injury in the Vikings' opener, which kept him out of Minnesota's Week 2 game in Pittsburgh, and it looks like oddsmakers want to know whether Bradford or Case Keenum will be starting before they commit to a point spread in this game.
Seahawks (1-1) at Titans (1-1)
Opening line: Titans, -2.5 points
This game will mark only the second time that the Seahawks have played in Nashville since the Titans moved to Tennessee in 1997. The Seahawks are an underdog in this game, which is actually pretty rare for them. Since Russell Wilson's rookie year (2012), the Seahawks have been a road underdog 15 times, and they've gone 9-5-1 ATS, which is the third best mark in the NFL over that period. However, most of those road games weren't played in the Central Time Zone, where the Seahawks have struggled recently. Since 2014, Seattle is just 2-7 (.222 winning percentage) straight up in the Central Time Zone while going 31-9-1 (.768) in all other time zones.
Chiefs (2-0) at Chargers (0-2)
Opening line: Chiefs, -2.5 points
The fact that the Chargers are a 2.5-point underdog in this game is almost fitting since their first two losses of the season have come by an average of 2.5 points. There's a lot of reasons to like the Chiefs in this game. For one, they're on an 11-game winning streak against divisional opponents. Not to mention, they're also on a six-game winning streak against the Chargers that dates back to 2014. Also, since Andy Reid took over in 2013, the Chiefs are 15-9 ATS against divisional opponents, which is the second best mark in the NFL over the span.
Bengals (0-2) at Packers (1-1)
Opening line: Packers, -9.5 points
This is the largest point spread that the Bengals have faced in the Andy Dalton era. Before this week, the biggest spread the Bengals had faced came in October 2016 when they were a 7.5-point underdog to the Patriots (They didn't cover). Since 2011, the Bengals are 2-3-1 ATS when they're an underdog of seven or more points. One thing that the Bengals have done well under Dalton, though, is cover against NFC teams. Since 2011, the Bengals are 14-7-3 ATS against the NFC, which is the best mark of any AFC team over that span. The Bengals are actually the only team in the NFL that Aaron Rodgers has played against, but never beaten.
Raiders (2-0) at Redskins (1-1)
Opening line: Raiders, -3.5 points
The Redskins aren't a home underdog often, but when they are, they tend to cover. Since Kirk Cousins became the team's full-time starter in 2015, the Redskins have gone 6-3 ATS as a home underdog. That doesn't mean Washington is a lock, though. The Raiders were the only team in the NFL that played multiple games as a road underdog AND went undefeated ATS while doing that in 2016 (2-0). This game will mark the first time these two teams have played in Washington since 2005.
Cowboys (1-1) at Cardinals (1-1), Monday
Opening line: Cowboys, -3 points
After getting blown out by the Broncos on Sunday, the Cowboys will have to try and rebound against a team that they've had some serious trouble with over the past few years. The Cowboys haven't beaten the Cardinals since 2006, and they've gone 0-4 against Arizona since then. Not only have the Cowboys had trouble against the Cardinals recently, but they've had trouble covering the spread after a loss. Since 2015, the Cowboys are 4-9-1 ATS following a loss, which is the second worst mark in the NFL over the span.